Stephens County brainstorms to make mental illness a state priority

Stephens County brainstorms to make mental illness a state priority

DUNCAN, Okla._The Stephens County community is tackling mental health.

Law enforcement, school counselors and non-profit organizations met at Duncan Regional Hospital Tuesday morning for the county's Mental Health Task Force meeting. They brainstormed how to make mental illness a priority in Oklahoma. According to statistics, 1 in 4 people suffer from it on a daily basis.

Teri White, the commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, told the crowd we should take a hard look at our prison systems and implement mental health courts that follow the same standards the drug courts follow.

"Those individuals in drug court earn $34.9 million in wages in the next three years. It's over 1,000 people and they pay over the next three years $2 million into the general revenue tax fund. Had those same people been in prison during those three years it would have cost our state over $50 million,"  White said.

Commissioner White says studies have proven programs like these work. The next battle is finding the money to implement them.